Education

Vote for a higher sales tax and your property tax could go down, school district says

Belleville District 201 officials say they will work to decrease property taxes if in April voters pass the proposed 1-cent sales tax increase that would benefit schools.

The countywide sales tax increase will appear on the ballot during the April 4 election.

The new revenue would be distributed to school districts in St. Clair County based on student population, with an estimated $2.5 million going to District 201 each year. That money could only be used to pay for upkeep, improvement and construction of school facilities or to pay off facilities debt.

School boards representing more than half the county’s student population voted to place the penny sales tax referendum on the April ballot.

District 201 said in a statement that it would use the bulk of its share to pay off bonds issued to build the new Belleville West High School and to renovate Belleville East, allowing the district to collect less property tax revenue to pay off those debts. Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer said during the school board meeting Monday evening that he recommends about $2.3 million of the district’s $2.5 million share be used toward this goal.

Mentzer said the result would be an estimated savings of $49.94 per year in property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home. The owner of a $150,000 home would save an estimated $74.91 per year.

The rest of the district’s share — about $229,000 — would be used for infrastructure maintenance and improvements, including heating and air conditioning work, parking lot improvements, roof repairs, security and access control improvements and other preventative maintenance, according to the statement.

Mentzer said that District 201 would also work to provide an annual report of how the sales tax revenue would be spent.

“The taxpayers have the right to know exactly what the money is being used for,” Mentzer said. “We’re going to be completely transparent about it.”

The sales tax increase would not apply to certain purchases, like drugs and unprepared food.

$49.94 Estimated savings in property taxes each year for the owner of a $100,000 home

$74.91Estimated savings for the owner of a $150,000 home

In other business

During Monday’s meeting, board members also set the tax levy for next year. Mentzer said the rate is the same as last year.

“If all things stay the same with our rate and the value of a home, homeowners will not see an increase in the district’s portion of the bill,” he said.

The board also approved regulations for expense reimbursements for things like travel and workshops, which Superintendent Jeff Dosier said is now required by statute.

“We will have a resolution that basically sets rules for how much can be reimbursed for board members should they go anywhere,” Dosier said prior to the meeting. “We’re also going to use the same rules for staff members.”

Student, teacher recognitions

Belleville East High School Principal Jason Karstens recognized three students who were recently named Illinois State Scholars during the meeting, including:

▪  Clare Lablance, who hopes to study and work in medical field.

▪  Joseph Radecki, who plans to study math.

▪  Brittanie Rice, who plans to study computer engineering and pursue a career in cybersecurity.

Karstens also recognized retiring teacher Mary Kaemmerer, who has taught chemistry, physics and physical science. Business teacher Brenda Kelley wrote in a statement that Karstens read to board members that Kaemmerer wants to see her students succeed not only in her class but in life.

Kelley said that Kaemmerer fought through the pain of illness to continue teaching and encouraging students.

Belleville West Principal Rich Mertens honored teacher Julie Burch for increasing opportunities for District 201 students in science.

Burch designed a forensic science course that allows students at both East and West to earn college credit through Saint Louis University.

The board meets next at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at 920 N. Illinois St. in Belleville.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

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